Green Fleet of the Year: Coca-Cola Enterprises

April 1, 2009
For its first Green Fleet of the Year award, Fleet Owner looked for a company that embodied being green. Many companies say they are green. Some add hybrid trucks to their fleet; others seek ways to cut emissions through fuel-saving technologies. Some do both. But few, if any, embody the overall commitment that Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) puts forth. As such, CCE has been awarded numerous awards,

For its first Green Fleet of the Year award, Fleet Owner looked for a company that embodied "being green." Many companies say they are green. Some add hybrid trucks to their fleet; others seek ways to cut emissions through fuel-saving technologies. Some do both.

But few, if any, embody the overall commitment that Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) puts forth. As such, CCE has been awarded numerous awards, has partnered with several environmental groups and communities, donated more than $31 million to community investment programs in 2007, and set measurable benchmarks through a corporate commitment to monitor its progress. In all, being green has become a culture at Coca-Cola Enterprises. From its recycling program to its vehicles, nearly all the decisions CCE makes incorporate the idea of being green. And it's not just a saying at CCE, it's become reality.

No aspect of the Atlanta-based corporation, the largest marketer, producer and distributor of Coca-Cola products in the world, reflects that culture more than fleet operations. CCE has just completed a purchase of 185 hybrid-electric Kenworth trucks, joining 142 hybrid vehicles purchased in early 2008.

"Coca-Cola Enterprises has long been responsive to the needs of our local communities, and the continued expansion of our hybrid-electric fleet in our hometown of Atlanta and across North America demonstrates our commitment to energy efficiency and climate change," says John F. Brock, chairman and CEO. "With the deployment of our newer, larger hybrid delivery vehicles, CCE is continuing to explore ways to help our customers and communities through our corporate responsibility and sustainability efforts. These efforts help us capture operational efficiencies, drive innovation and effectiveness, and eliminate waste while simultaneously protecting the environment."

The hybrid fleet of 327 vehicles includes 12-bay, 33,000-lb.-GVW delivery trucks and 55,000-lb.-GCWR tractors. With 20,061 vehicles, the decision to start shifting to hybrid technologies is not something CCE entered into hastily.


"We started this activity in early 2001," says Gary Kapusta, vp of procurement. "Our original intent was to develop a fleet of electric vehicles. For various technological reasons, that didn't work."

Adding hybrids to its fleet is just one area in which CCE is meeting its goals, set forth initially in the 2007 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report (CRS), the third such annual report that sets yearly organizational-wide goals for sustainability. The report set the company's first global targets and goals for five key CRS focus areas: water stewardship, sustainable packaging/recycling, energy conservation/climate change, product portfolio/well-being, and setting a diverse and inclusive culture.

The targets and goals are the result of a company-wide CRS summit held in June 2007. "At the CRS summit, we answered one simple question, ‘What does CRS mean at CCE?’" Brock wrote in the report. "To us, CRS is where our business touches the world and where the world touches our business.

"To us, CRS is about improving our overall business performance while meeting or exceeding the expectations of our employees, customers and stakeholders. We are focused on successfully integrating CRS into every aspect of our operations: business, communities and environment…Our operations are striving to innovate, drive efficiencies and minimize our environmental impact."

Part of the summit's goal was to calculate CCE's carbon footprint for the first time. When the 2008 calculation was complete, the company learned that direct emissions account for 1.5 million tons of CO2. That is the benchmark CCE will use as it tries to lessen its impact in the future.

Each area has certain goals to meet. For instance, CCE has pledged to reduce water usage 10% by 2010 by investing $15 million in new technologies. In 2007, the company cut usage 3% as compared to 2006, and it supports a partnership that The Coca-Cola Co. formed with the World Wildlife Fund, as Coke pledged "to replace every drop of water used in our beverages." The company uses polyethylene tephthalate (PET), aluminum or glass, all of which are recyclable, in most of its packaging.

Through the programs put in place by Coca-Cola Recycling, they've pledged to avoid the use of 100,000 metric tons of packaging by 2010. For example, by reducing the amount of plastic in its closures, the company is saving an estimated 19,000 metric tons of resin a year. And through programs to recapture 100% of the materials used at its production facilities, some locations such as the one in Bellevue, WA, have achieved greater than 99% resource recovery.

Goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which is where fleet operations factor in, remain a primary focus of CCE's CRS commitments. "Fleet operations are an integral part of our Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability commitment at CCE, particularly in our CRS focus area of energy conservation/climate change," Kapusta says. "CRS is a pillar of our company's operating framework. Particularly in these tough economic times, CCE is advancing our commitment to hybrid trucks because it provides a benefit to our business, communities and employees."

"We know that almost all our carbon emissions result from energy consumption and that manufacturing, transportation and refrigeration are the most energy-intensive parts of our business. Therefore, these three areas remain our focus and we are working with The Coca-Cola Co., suppliers and customers to implement energy-saving measures," the report states.

The company also has more than 100 additional hybrid vehicles used by the sales and marketing departments and is piloting the use of hybrid delivery vehicles in Belgium. The hybrid vehicles cost significantly more than standard diesel trucks, but from CCE's perspective, it's the right purchase to make. "We do believe at some point, the economics will make sense," Kapusta says. CCE keeps most of its vehicles about 15 years, with each being driven around 25,000 mi./yr., making the long-term payback possible. The new hybrid tractors are anticipated to cut emissions about 30%.


From a green perspective, though, it's not just about hybrid vehicles, it's about training and finding new technologies as well.

Kapusta believes that the initiative that set this cycle in motion back in 2001 — electric vehicles — still may be a reality one day. "At some point, I suspect we'll have electric delivery vehicles. The technology is just not there yet" because of the heavier weights the vehicles carry, Kapusta says, adding that CCE is also looking at fuel cell technology. "Hydrogen fuel cells could be a great solution for us."

CCE is also seeing a cut in fuel consumption, and therefore carbon emissions, through advanced training on shifting and slow starting and stopping. "The training is really quite simple in concept but difficult to execute in practice," Kapusta says. "We instruct the drivers to start and stop slowly and in a controlled manner, and focus on shifting at the right time. We want them to think about there being an ‘egg’ or a ‘balloon’ under the accelerator pedal. Experience and practice is the key."

This training also benefits the equipment, saving on maintenance costs. "Our driver education program has delivered a 12 to 15% improvement in mpg in our trials," says Kapusta. "The sheer weight and start/stop driving of our trucks and loaded tractors make them more difficult to drive than long haul or lower GCW vehicles, causing more prevalent maintenance issues with components such as clutches, transmissions or brakes. The additional training pays off from both an mpg impact, as well as a maintenance/time on the road impact."

CCE has been testing GPS systems as well, but since drivers are not dedicated to any one vehicle, there is still some uncertainty about their overall impact. "We are continuing to trial and pilot GPS technology as there are some real benefits to be captured from the standpoints of safety, accidents and education with the systems," says Kapusta. "However, the main issue we have with GPS technology is that in order for them to be truly effective, someone else has to monitor the data — and with the size of our fleet, that can be a laborious and expensive process."

Like many companies, CCE has a no-idling policy. To enforce it, devices are being installed on each truck that turn off the engine after 10 min. of non-use, Kapusta says.

Another interesting aspect to the fleet's carbon reduction is tires. "Tires are a very important component of the program; we've found that the proper inflation of tires is directly correlated to our mpg," says Kapusta. "Underinflated tires result in downtime, tire replacement or repair costs, service call expenses, equipment damage, shorter tire life and possible safety issues.

"We are experimenting with various technologies to automatically monitor tire inflation and to get some firsthand data on nitrogen vs. oxygen," he adds. "We opted to use a slightly more expensive tire [and spec] from a higher quality supplier to achieve better total cost of ownership and make extensive use of recaps, especially for our trailers to minimize cost and extend the useful life of the tires."


One of the benefits to defining green as a goal is the respect and cooperation it earns from suppliers and other industry peers. Among the biggest suppliers in the hybrid program have been Eaton Corp. and Kenworth Truck Co.

"Coca-Cola Enterprises has been consistently involved with us in the development of our hybrid power solutions since Eaton's first ‘Voice of the Hybrid Customer’ meetings back in 2003," says Dimitri Kazarinoff, Eaton's gm of Emerging Technologies and Business Development for its Truck Group. "Along with other visionary customers, they helped us to understand the performance, efficiency and reliability requirements that would allow hybrid power to make economic sense for the long run. And, of course, Coca-Cola Enterprise's commitment to sustainability and environmental quality in their operations matches that of our own company, so the partnership has had all the right ingredients for success."

Andy Douglas, Kenworth's national sales manager for specialty markets, echoes that sentiment.

"Customer input is a critical piece of Kenworth's new product development plans," he says. "In many respects, Coca-Cola Enterprises represented the perfect partner for Kenworth as we worked together to develop our hybrid product line. CCE and Kenworth both share strong corporate environmental policies and are leaders in their respective industries. This common vision allowed the companies to partner and expand the hybrid product offerings."

CCE has also garnered numerous awards for its green initiatives, including two straight years as the recipient of the Golden Peacock Award for Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting, awarded by the World Council for Corporate Governance and the Center for Sustainability and Excellence. The Golden Peacock is awarded to one company globally and this year's award "recognizes CCE's integration of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CRS) into its business strategy, responsiveness to the needs of its stakeholders, and the development of innovative partnerships to fulfill social responsibilities."

An Environmental Stewardship Award from Orion Energy Systems recognizes the company's commitment to responsibility and sustainability and the Southeast Diesel Collaborative honored CCE for its commitment to hybrid vehicles.

"Their investment in hybrid-electric vehicles distinguishes the company amongst its peers and ensures that it remains at the forefront as a true leader in corporate responsibility and sustainability," said Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue in making the presentation.

For Coca-Cola Enterprises, the time to be green has arrived and there is no end in sight. That's why it's Fleet Owner's 2009 Green Fleet of the Year.

Beyond emissions

Coca-Cola Enterprises' (CCE) fleet operations play a role in the company's green efforts, probably receiving the most attention because they are the visible results of sustainability efforts with thousands of trucks rolling into stores across America every day. The fact is, though, that CCE has transformed itself in recent years from a company that cared about its environmental responsibility to one that sets the tone for others.

Each year, CCE puts out a Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report that outlines company accomplishments and sets future goals. The report focuses on five areas: water stewardship, sustainable packaging/recycling, energy conservation/climate change, product portfolio/well-being, and having a diverse and inclusive culture.

Each area sets different targets. For instance, the goal of water stewardship, set by the Coca-Cola Co. and implemented by CCE, aims to be "water neutral," that is using 1 liter of water for every liter of product produced. In 2007, that number was 1.77 liters per 1 liter of beverage, a 3% improvement from 2006. The company expects to reduce water usage 10% by 2010 under the plan.

Under the sustainable packaging goals, CCE hopes to recover 230,000 metric tons of beverage packaging by 2010, much of that through recycling. Thirty recycling operations have been set up to handle returned products and recover packaging materials for recycling.

Fleet operation goals are outlined under the energy conservation category, but even that category is much more than just buying hybrid vehicles and reducing diesel emissions. The company plans to cut its carbon footprint and reduce absolute CO2 manufacturing emissions by 5%, as compared to 2004 levels, before 2015.

Installation of energy-efficient industrial and high-bay fluorescent lighting is ongoing in facilities, cutting energy usage in half. It is also exploring heat recovery where heat produced in the production process is then used to warm water for future production to decrease reliance on natural gas.

In addition, CCE follows the philosophy of "offering every consumer the right product and package in the right place at the right moment in the right way," while also organizing and sponsoring grassroots well-being programs, pumping over $31 million back into the community in 2007 alone.

About the Author

Brian Straight | Managing Editor

Brian joined Fleet Owner in May 2008 after spending nearly 14 years as sports editor and then managing editor of several daily newspapers.  He and his staff  won more than two dozen major writing and editing awards. Responsible for editing, editorial production functions and deadlines.

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